Scientist combines biology and bunkhouse on Mull

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A marine biologist who fell in love with the Isle of Mull has renovated a cottage into a bunkhouse aimed at outdoor enthusiasts visiting the island.

Rachel Ball moved to Mull late last year and began converting the building into an eight-bed bunkhouse ideal for families or groups.

With support from Argyll and Bute Business Gateway, Rachel launched the business and started taking bookings for Ross of Mull Bunkhouse earlier this year with occupancy so far increasing month by month.

She said: ‘I love the West Coast of Scotland and the Isle of Mull in particular and had been looking at ways to locate here.

‘The Isle of Mull has amazing wildlife and natural environment, providing lots of opportunities for the outdoor activities which I love.

‘I was given the opportunity to take on a property in Fionnphort which was trading as a self-catering cottage and realised there was a gap in the market for budget accommodation aimed at an outdoor market.

‘I decided therefore to develop the cottage into a bunkhouse business.

‘The Business Gateway course which I attended was a massive help in me making the mental shift from working as a scientist, to identifying everything I need to think about in being self-employed in the hospitality industry. Guidance on how to structure a business plan and having a customer focus was especially helpful and has proven essential in dealing with all aspects of running a business.’

Angela Vernel, Business Gateway adviser, said: ‘Not only did Rachel learn valuable information from our fully-funded workshop, but it gave her the opportunity to make contact with other local business owners and share ideas which has led to fruitful relationships.’

Ross of Mull Bunkhouse is open all year round with Rachel hoping to develop an off-season market including activities such as winter wildlife watching, walking and photography.

Rachel added: ‘I worked for more than 15 years as a marine biologist, where I was involved in animal husbandry, education, research and most recently policy, so this is a big change for me but for a new business I feel I am doing well and I love living and working here.

‘The Ross of Mull is ideal for kayaking, wild swimming, cycling and a host of other interesting activities, so there is an opportunity to provide these to groups.

‘There is a supportive tourism accommodation network in the area and many have very kindly referred inquiries that they couldn’t fill themselves which helped me get established. I quickly discovered that private groups of four and eight people were a good market and I achieved 50 per cent
occupancy in June and 70 per cent in July.

‘My main aim is to get a good level of occupancy throughout the
year and then I can look into developing the business further.’

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